I Need Some Professional Development Help!

In a couple of weeks I (and a group of others) will have to begin planning the new teacher staff development and whole campus staff development for my campus for the 2008-2009 school year.

I am sure we have all been to those “professional development” sessions where we sat for eight hours and just basically tried not to fall asleep or strangle the boring presenter while they lectured to us about lecturing not being the most effective way to teach… BEATING.  I do not want to inflict that sort of “training” on my staff.

My goal is that the professional development we provide is actually USEFUL and that the majority of my staff members go away feeling like they have learned something or produced something they can use for the upcoming school year.  With that in mind, we usually offer choices and try to get as much teacher input into the planning process as we can.

The difficulties I see for planning professional development on my campus are

  • We have a few teachers with massive amounts of technology experience and It is difficult to come up with anything “new” to assist them with (technically)
  • We have a few teachers who still need basic technology training with the majority being somewhere in the middle
  • We have a few teachers who think they need advanced technology training when they really need basic 🙂
  • We have teachers who are OUTSTANDING in building relationships with the kids and teachers who are not
  • We have a few teachers who think they know everything about technology and/or their subject area who haven’t really updated their skills since 1985… and see no need to
  • We have elective teachers who feel left out because there are few if any sessions geared toward their subjects
  • We have teachers who have taught for 30 years and teachers who have yet to step foot in the classroom
  • Our teachers expect choice in staff development and expect some sort of relevancy from it (so, the standard is high)

I guess my point in listing all of this is that we have a varied staff (as I am sure your school has).  And, when planning for a group who have such disparate needs, it is difficult to give everyone what they need which has been our basis for offering choice and attempting to differentiate for the group (as we would do in a classroom).  Overall, I think it works but I am ready to try something new and different… I just don’t know what it is yet.

I would love some thoughts from you on how to best organize professional development opportunities for a group of 80 or so educators with various technological and teaching backgrounds.

Before the school year ended, I surveyed the staff on what they would like to see in their professional development options, and this is what they said.

Last year we decided to plan and present our professional development for new and returning teachers via Wikispaces, and this is what we come up with for the newbies and the whole campus.

So again, I would love your thoughts on how to organize and implement some professional development opportunities that is not going to waste my staff’s time.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

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9 Comments on “I Need Some Professional Development Help!”

  1. Dave Says:

    When I provide technology training, I focus a lot on the quality of the communication. If I’m going to present to a class, I spend a -lot- of time rehearsing and refining. That familiarity with the material keeps me on track, helps prevent brainfreeze moments, keeps me confident, etc.

    I don’t know how you work beyond what you’ve said here, but I don’t think you touched on non-classroom professional development. I don’t always learn the best in a class setting, so I sympathetically try to provide succinct, refined online training materials as text with pictures and screen captured video. When there are as many topics to cover as you had in your survey, I think that needs to be a big part of your approach.

    Those are my recommendations for not wasting their time — high-quality presentations and writing. As far as narrowing down the topics, I think it’s important for you to confidently select the technology topics that will most benefit the teachers. Be the expert! When planning classes for teachers to attend, make sure the topics you pick lend themselves to classes…if they really have to walk through the steps on the computer to grasp the concept, I find that I run out of time because we’re always waiting on slower users.

  2. Sarah S Says:

    I am not going to be at all helpful. 🙂

    Since I will be participating in this staff development, I am excited to see the ideas that others come up with!

  3. kwyrick Says:

    I’ll give my input in a couple weeks when the fun starts! 🙂

    Seriously though…I would like to see something similar to last year when we offered numerous options for teachers to choose from. By looking at the survey results, there seems to be a lot of options in terms of what we can offer.

    I do think we need to offer some of the things that got lower interest as well just because of teachers that will be new or are in their 2nd year of teaching so that they have great learning opportunities like us older teachers.

  4. Let me guess who said “those cool seating charts with pictures in them” LOL

    Anyway, one thing that I have always found teachers to love is an opportunity to share with each other in a non-structured way. Allow for some options of breakouts where all that is going to happen is that teachers are going to share their favorite technology. Allow each teacher a few minutes to present it to the rest of the group and then open it up for discussion. I learn more in 15 minutes of those kinds of sessions than I ever do in any planned session.

  5. Jacqui Derby Says:

    My suggestion is to keep it broad by focusing on teaching strategies. Then have teachers work in groups to develop items for their classes. Use the following method: instruct, hands on, and reflection.

    An example could be to spend one part of the day on Webquests.

    TEACH: Discuss what webquests are and how they are used. Have some guide sheets with links that will be of interest to your teachers and provide a starting point for those that are not comfortable with technology.

    HANDS ON: Have teachers work in pairs by grouping a lower tech experienced teacher with a higher tech experienced teacher of the same subject or grade level (math, English, the Arts, Science, third grade teachers, etc.) Have the teachers locate “x” number of webquests that they feel they could use in their classroom during the next 3 months.

    REFLECTION: Meet back as a group and have teachers share 1 of the webquest the chose and explain why, how and when they are going to use it. You can also brainstorm solutions to potential issues they feel would prevent them from implementing the webquest.

    This method keeps everyone active and working on something that is meaningful to them. In a follow up professional development session you can have the teachers discuss what they implemented with their students and how it worked. This would also be a good time for another “solution” to problems session.

    Other ideas would be wikis, podcasts, blogs, streaming videos, interactive websites, simulations, etc.

  6. Last year, a school I worked with did a tech afternoon (3 rotations of <20 min sessions). Sure there were those who blew it off or just sat in on the easiest thing they could. But there was some success with a group of mixed leveled teachers working with web 2.0 stuff.

    One group focused on Voicethread.com and learned the basics of how to use. The success came not from learning VT, but from the teams sitting and planning the particular units that would use the VT, the photos they would need, and rubrics for expected outcomes. The ‘geeks’ would do the setup while the non-geeks learned from them. The techno-reluctants could spend quality curriculum development time with the VT idea and they all won.

    I was told another group did something similar with iKeepBookmarks. They learned about social bookmarking and then set one up and collectively planned bookmark sets for the units that they had coming up. Most could get involved and there was another real product that they created and would use.

    My 2 pesos.

  7. John Brown Says:

    I think that there needs to be a central theme to professional development. That direction must come from the leadership of the school. What is the most important step forward that the staff as a whole must take during the upcoming school year.

    Once that theme is established then you can develop differentiated and participative plans for moving forward. Lacking a central theme, you have a potpourri of classes that lacks focus.

  8. Thanks for the responses and great ideas… I will certainly pull from them when we begin planning.

    Dave – I agree that having some on-line options teachers can work through at their own pace is crucial. I usually have some of these as well. I just need to make some time to create and/or locate some new videos and such for this year.

    Dr. Brown – You are correct. We certainly need a theme or starting point. Last year before planning the sessions we brainstormed 3-4 areas where our school needs improvement and we designed the sessions to fit with those needs. Hopefully recognizing these areas of need will be our first step in planning… unfortunately, this year, the district has already recognized some of these areas for all of the schools so what we feel we need will have to be shortened a bit from last year.

    Again, thanks for the ideas and keep them coming!!

  9. John Brown Says:

    “the district has already recognized some of these areas for all of the schools” —– makes me glad I am retired!

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